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Ethylene Glycol Poisoning

At this time of year as the weather gets colder we see an increased use of antifreeze and sadly cases of ethylene glycol poisoning amongst cats and dogs.

Anti-freeze products contain ethylene glycol (EG) and are used in car radiators and occasionally brake and transmission fluid.

Cats are susceptible to ethylene glycol toxicity with a minimum toxic dose of just 1.4 ml/kg. Exposure occurs when cats drink the toxin (it is sweet-tasting) or when anti-freeze is added to water sources or their coats/feet are contaminated with the chemical.

Malicious poisoning has been suspected in some cases.

Toxic Effects

The toxic products of the metabolism of ethylene glycol cause kidney damage resulting in acute kidney failure. Formation of calcium oxalate crystals also occurs resulting in low blood calcium and crystals in the urine.

Clinical Signs of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning

Symptoms occur rapidly after ingestion. Initial clinical signs (seen less than 12 hours post intoxication) are gastrointestinal (vomiting) and neurological (ataxia, depression and ‘drunken’ appearance).

12-24 hours after ingestion further depression is observed, along with anorexia, increased heart rate and start of acute kidney failure. This then progresses to reduced urine production, vomiting, low heart rate and collapse.

Unfortunately, it is unusual to identify a cat in the earlier stages and most already have acute renal failure when they arrive at the vet.

If ethylene glycol poisoning is suspected it is vital to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Tests For Ethylene Glycol Poisoning

Our in-house laboratory have a new test capable of detecting the presence of ethylene glycol by a simple blood sample.

Levels can be detected within 30-45 mins of ingestion, which means lifesaving treatment can be administered without delay, increasing the chances of survival for cats and dogs alike.